“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Romans 5: 3-5).In war, the primary casualties are always the poor—defenceless civilians caught in the middle of violent, opposing forces.
In Colombia, the campesinos—subsistence farmers who make their living by cultivating the land—suffer most the tragic consequences of their country’s protracted armed conflict: destruction of the environment, displacement from their land, disappearances and death. Because they absorb the brunt of war, they have the highest stakes in ending it.
From April 28th to May 9th, 2014, 3,000 farmers and miners from the Southern Bolivar, Catatumbo, and Cesar regions mobilized near the small town of Norean (three hours north of Barrancabermeja) along with thousands across the country as part of the National Strike, to pressure the national government to negotiate with their leaders in Bogota. This is the second such mobilization in less than a year, after the government failed to fulfill the agreements that ended the first one.
Yesterday a thousand riot police and military personnel arrived in the small town of Norian, just north of Aguachica, and completely surrounded five thousand small farmers who had begun to gather there since May first. The display of force and the restriction of movement has been a part of the government’s strategy to clamp down on the growing Agrarian strike.
300 campesinos retenidos en Remedios con el argumento de poner en riesgo a la población de la ciudad de Medellín @ClaudiaErazo5
— Cahucopana Nordeste (@CAHUCOPANA) May 6, 2014
Earlier today, 300 small farmers from the northeastern Antioquia traveling to Medellin to participate in public gatherings were detained on the pretext that they would be a threat to the residents of Medellin, since the public forces did not have enough personnel.
Between the 27th and 29th of June, about three hundred and fifty farmers, small miners, human rights defenders, accompaniers, and lawyers met in San Pedro Frío, a mountaintop town in the south of Bolívar where CPT has had a presence for several years.
The purpose of this confluence, to which many Colombians had to travel for days, was to host the second of four “pre-hearings” featuring testimony in cases of human rights abuses by multinational corporations and the State. This particular hearing focused on the Canadian gold mining company AngloGold Ashanti, which increased its presence in Colombia in the early 2000s (shortly after the institution of the U.S.’ Plan Colombia, and an amendment requiring Colombia to open its economy to foreign investment).
On Sunday, August 18th, young men and women from the rural communities of the Segovia and Remedios municipalities of in the department of Antioquia took to the streets armed with frustration, courage, adrenaline, and, yes, sticks and stones. They went out to the streets of Segovia to express their frustration at a system that has abandoned them to live in conditions that no human should be asked to endure.
This action is part of a larger national protest. All over Colombia small farmers, miners, the indigenous, truckers, teachers, healthcare workers, coffee and cacao growers and other agricultural sectors have joined together to cry out that they are tired of the conditions they have been asked – by the Colombian government – to endure in order to join the wider world economy.